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No, Ugandan police announcement of arrest for people wearing masks wrong

A post widely shared on Facebook claims that Ugandan police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, has announced that the police will start arresting people who do not wear face masks properly.

“We are going to arrest all people who have turned face masks into neckless [necklaces], masks should cover your mouth and nose – Fred Enanga,” it reads.

The post shows a photo of Enanga, ironically with his face mask pulled below his chin.

The Ugandan health ministry’s guidelines to contain the spread of Covid-19 include wearing face masks.

Has police spokesperson Enanga announced that Ugandans face arrest for not wearing face masks correctly? We checked.

Penalties exist for not wearing mask

According to the guidelines, failure to wear a mask may be penalised.

“Wearing masks is mandatory in Uganda as per the Presidential Directive and the Statutory Instrument. You will be denied access to ANY public facilities without a MASK,” they say. A press statement from the health ministry also reiterated this.

A press statement from Uganda's police on 4 May 2020 warned that “all police officers must wear face masks at all times while on duty without excuse”. 

“Failure to do this shall lead to arrest and prosecution,” the statement said.

The health ministry’s statement also cited penalties contained in an update to the Covid-19 rules, including jail terms of up to three months for breaking the rules. But it was not clear that this would be applied to the incorrect use of masks. 

Photo published in unrelated article

We found many photos of Enanga addressing the media with a facemask below his chin. But we could find no evidence that he was announcing the arrest of Ugandans for incorrect mask use in any of them. 

The photo shared on Facebook appears to first have been published by the newspaper, the Tower Post, on 21 July. It appears in an article titled Police to Summon Aceng, Bobi and Mukula for Flouting Covid-19 Prevention Guidelines. But it does not mention face masks. 

Police dismiss rumours of arrests

The Uganda Police Force dismissed the claims about arrests on their official Facebook page.

The police shared a screenshot of the circulating post and captioned it, “FAKE NEWS: Please disregard this and treat it with the contempt it deserves.” – Grace Gichuhi


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